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Food for Thought

New ideas and advice to help you improve the operation, turnover, and connectivity of your dining sites.

5 tips to maximising group bookings this Easter

David Charlton

March 19 2019,
David Charlton

How to ensure you fill all your tables over the long weekend.

The long Easter weekend is an important time for the UK’s hospitality venues. As the days continue to grow longer and (hopefully) warmer, Easter is traditionally when people shake off the winter blues and head out to enjoy the Bank Holiday with family and friends.

Which is obviously great news for your hospitality venue. And to help you maximise your bookings we’ve compiled five top tips designed to fill your tables and get your tills ringing.

 

1. Make it easy for customers to book

Go back over 10 years and the customer journey was a relatively simple one. They’d pick up the phone and call you to make a booking. Your host would answer and a conversation would ensue that led to a booking at an available time that was convenient for the guest.

And then as people started using their smartphones for shopping, consuming music and entertainment, interacting with friends and family, and pretty much everything else, online reservations became key. Our stats reveal that 92% of customers made an online booking in 2018.

The issue is that the booking journey for groups larger than eight is often flawed as the venue is unable to accept bookings of this size online. The would-be booker is instead asked to contact the venue by phone. 

But as soon as a booker has to call the venue, it’s a parallel system for operators to deal with – one that leaves no automatic log for follow-up, and one that’s subject to human error. It’s so easy for scribbled bits of paper and messages to be forgotten about.

So tip number one is to let your booking system do the hard work, not the customer. Offer groups of all sizes real-time booking availability so they can book with confidence 24/7 from any device or platform. With areas of your venue dedicated to parties or big groups you can easily accommodate large bookings without manual tasks.

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2. Keep in regular contact with your customers

Group bookings are liable to change with people being added to the event or having to cancel, so communicating with customers easily is of paramount importance. It’s a great way to instil confidence and show your customers that you really care about their booking.

A dedicated events management portal offered by solutions such as liveRES Events & Pre-Order makes it easy for customers to fine-tune their bookings, notify you of any requests and so on – and it can share that data with everyone who needs access to it. There’s no risk of a message not being passed on to the right person, or of special dietary requirements or serious allergies not being notified to the kitchen. 

You get your own portal with liveRES Events & Pre-Order too. It’s a secure place for you to manage all the details of your bookings, correspond with guests, and send any requests for payments.

 

3. Empower your customers to pre-order and pay in advance

Time spent waiting to order meals or to get the bill can sap the fun out of any event. When there’s a big group, it can take a while to walk around taking everyone’s orders. Likewise, when guests are tired and ready to go home, the last thing they want to do is hang around waiting to settle their tab.

Why not remove the pain completely by encouraging your guests to order and pay in advance? Not only does it help improve the guests’ enjoyment on the night, but it helps with your stock ordering and kitchen planning as well.

You can ensure you have all the ingredients you need to fulfil all orders without risking any wastage from over ordering, and there’s less likelihood of a shortage of any key ingredients.

Manually managing all this would be painstakingly monotonous and time consuming. But why would you do it yourself when liveRES Events & Pre-Order can do it for you? It’s operational efficiency at its finest.

liveRES Events & Pre-Order gives you the technology you need to remove other pain points too – for both your customers and your staff. For example, the innovative solution can also accept staged payments, enabling your guests to spread the costs over time and avoid any bill shock at the event.

 

4. Create upsell opportunities

Every party planner wants their event to be unique, with special little touches to make the occasion even more memorable.
So tip number four is to offer your customers the opportunity to add on extra packages and details to make their event go with a bang. For example, you can promote upsell extras such as drinks packages, flowers, balloons, and other related and relevant items that not only boost revenue but enhance the overall experience. 

And it’s not just for Easter. You could parcel up services for all manner of events, from office dos and hen parties to golden anniversary celebrations.

It’s a win/win: your guests get the benefit of your team’s wisdom and events experience, and you get to boost your bottom line.

LR-AT-Easter-blog-5-tips-to-maximising-group-bookings-this-Easter-[internal-2]5. Make it easy to cancel

The rise of online booking has been mirrored by another trend: an increase in no-shows. Simply put, the bigger the occasion for your venue then the bigger your losses when customers fail to turn up without informing you. Venues report losing thousands of pounds over Easter last year due to no-shows.

"Any restaurant has a fragile economic model, and if a third of your covers don't turn up it can have a huge impact," says Neil Kedward, managing director of the Beach House restaurant in Oxwich, Gower, south Wales. 

Restaurant critic Jay Rayner says the depersonalised relationship between restaurants and customers means that “people think less about the consequences” of no-shows, a sentiment echoed by one regular restaurant goer:

“I don't think I'd ever call up and cancel if I'd booked online - there's no guilt, there's no connection…”

 

So our fifth and final tip is to build a relationship with customers and make it easy for them to cancel. A great way to do this is by SMS, for a number of reasons:

  • The average open rate of SMS is 82%, compared with email at 18%

  • SMS are short and to the point, which customers love

  • Messages are sent automatically at a predetermined time

  • Unlike email, there’s no spam filter for SMS (just ensure your customers have opted in)

  • Texting is faster and more immediate

We recommend a simple question asking the customer to click a button to say “Yes, I’ll be there” or “Sorry, I can no longer make it.” 

You get instant notification of their intentions, which allows you to act accordingly. With a truly integrated system like liveRES your availability is automatically updated, allowing you to immediately resell the table to a late booker.

And if tables aren’t reallocated, at the very least you’ll be able to proactively manage your staffing requirements to mitigate any losses.

 

The power of integrated technology

These five tips will help you accept and manage more group bookings this Easter – and throughout the year. And key to all this is having the right integrated systems that give you operational efficiency and the ability to deliver a customer experience to drive greater revenue and bigger, better profits. 

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